It is unusual to think that the second game of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage would be a must-win affair, but that is essentially the situation in which Real Salt Lake finds themselves after a tournament-opening loss three weeks ago.
With the new tournament format shrinking the group stage from six games to four, the pressure and importance rises with each match, and as a result, RSL's clash with Panamanian side Tauro FC (10 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel) at the confines of Rio Tinto Stadium is as must-have as it can be with the club still being mathematically alive even in the event of a loss.
RSL, looking to reprise its run to the final from the 2010-11 tournament, face a number of internal obstacles heading into one of two home matches during the group stage. Nat Borchers is suspended for the match after being red-carded in the loss to Herediano; Kyle Beckerman and Alvaro Saborio, who were kept on the bench to start the club's league game over the weekend, are both sitting on yellow cards; and Jamison Olave is out nursing the injury he suffered against Herediano.
Compounding matters is the fact that RSL have not won in any competition in their last four matches, a stretch that started with the loss to Herediano. The club has scored just twice in those four games, and Saturday's last-minute home loss to FC Dallas is still stinging. The club's August swoon has allowed the Seattle Sounders, and to a lesser extent, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps all to creep within striking range of the club's grasp on second place in the Western Conference.
Then there are the challenges posed by Tauro, a club that went 1-2-1 against MLS competition (FC Dallas and Toronto FC) in last year's group stage and is off to a 4-1-1 start in domestic play this season. The team's attack is spearheaded by Panama international Edwin Aguilar, who has five goals in five league games and is fresh off a start against Portugal in last week's friendly.
He'll test a makeshift RSL back line, one that figures to be anchored by midseason acquisition Kwame Watson-Siriboe.
How do you see RSL faring Tuesday night? Do you think tonight is a true must-win match?
Share your thoughts below.